[Icecast] Still the big Icecast problem!

Ian Andrew Bell hello at ianbell.com
Tue Dec 28 18:47:52 UTC 2004

If propagation of Ogg Vorbis is the (or a)  goal of Icecast then 
probably the best strategy is to build an embedded Ogg Flash Player of 
some sort, so that people unwittingly become Ogg users without lifting 
a finger, and broadcasters can start using it without fear that they'll 
lose listeners due to their protocol choice.  I've been streaming for 
more than 7 years now with Quicktime, Shoutcast, and most recently 
Icecast and it's been interesting to see how the technologies in the 
space have vied for dominance, ultimately ceding to MP3.

In 2000, Shoutcasting was difficult because nobody had MP3 players 
installed and it was a pain to download.  Microsoft changed this by 
including Windows Media Player and suddenly there was an embedded base 
of MP3 listeners out there looking for something to tune into.  Cue the 
demise of proprietary streaming protocols like RealPlayer (which 
previously was the norm) and Quicktime streaming (which still required 
users to get Quicktime, though it was pretty easy).  These two had 
previously been prominent because RealAudio had been prolific in 
embedding their player with browser downloads and OS installs, and 
because Apple/Quicktime had come up with millions of different reasons 
why you needed to install their plugin and so a large base had been 
grown over half a decade.  MP3 streaming broke out and away from the 
pack because A) it was free, B) MP3 as a standard was getting huge 
attention thanks to file sharing, and C) it was well supported by 
NullSoft from encoder to server to player.

Sure there are lots of Ogg players out there for you and me to install, 
but without some kind of stealth strategy Ogg is stuck with a 
chicken-and-egg problem.  Can't get the streamers if there are no 
listeners, can't get the listeners if there are no streamers.  The 
difference between now and 2000, when MP3 broke thru this wall, is that 
there are a lot more choices out there and streaming over IP is no 
longer quite as new and cool.  Being cooler, being technically better, 
is not enough.  Being free and open-source in itself doesn't cut it in 
the mass market.  MP3, these days, is "free enough" and easily 
available for use by the unwashed masses.

So... what would make me as a professional broadcaster seriously 
consider Ogg?  Two things:


We use an embedded player at Pulverradio.com that's done in Flash.  For 
our part we just modified an off-the-shelf player for our station and 
the result is we receive very little email from folks having trouble 
connecting.  So ostensibly we could choose any protocol we liked, so 
long as there was a Flash Library to support it, since the listeners 
don't NEED to know the difference.


I need to encode Ogg professionally.  We use hardware encoders from 
TELOS. I picked these because it was the most rock-solid solution that 
had AES inputs, and our production studios are all-digital.  
(http://www.audioactive.com/products/webcasting.html)  These use 
licensed Fraunhofer encoders and also have some nice de-essing and 
grunge reduction features that I am a fan of.  Convince guys like this 
to use Ogg, or develop a similar device which does both Ogg and MP3, 
and you've got a winner.

Like any effective salesman, when facing chicken-and-egg problems dead 
on (which I've had to do a number of times in my career) it's important 
to grease the skids so that there are no reasons for the listener, the 
producer, or the broadcaster to say No.  In the case of Ogg Vorbis it's 
simply not good enough to push the tools out there and wait for people 
to use them.

In any case I share your pain because I'm frustrated with MP3 streaming 
and would like to see Ogg Vorbis more widely used.


On 18-Dec-04, at 4:24 AM, Geoff Shang wrote:

> Ralph Giles wrote:
>> Of course. But that's not the whole story. Microsoft only
>> supports MP3 because so many people listen to mp3 radio
>> stations and files. And before Window Media Player played
>> MP3, everyone had winamp installed because the nearest
>> teenager (if I may) had installed it as a way to listen to
>> cool--or at least free--music.
> Very true.  And WMP had support for MP3 files before it properly 
> supported MP3 streaming.  Same with RealPLayer.  They added it because 
> there was overwhelming user demand for it.

More information about the Icecast mailing list